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The following was the plaque dedication given by TLC Brotherhood president Bill Tilton at the ceremony in the U.S. Air Force Academy Cemetery on July 8, 2000.
Greetings, distinguished guests and my Brothers and Sisters.
This is certainly a solemn and serious occasion, with deep meaning for all of us. It represents many months of work, a substantial expenditure of funds, and a great deal of deeply felt symbolism to the members of the TLC Brotherhood and their comrades. I would not make light business of this occasion.
But whenever occasions begin to get a little too serious and heavy, I can picture my friend and mentor in the 23rd TASS, Lee Harley, with his wonderful silly grin. He will forever look young and fun-loving of course, because he stopped aging in May of 1966. And his body lies still hidden in that remote mountain plateau up on the border of North Vietnam that was forever after known as Harley’s Valley. For my own part, what we are doing today is for Lee, for his passenger Andre Guillet, and for Karl Worst, Joe Brown, WP Smith, and Tom Wolfe. For them, this permanent symbol gives me great satisfaction.
I know that most of you have similar thoughts and similar satisfaction today. Because this dedication is not just for crewmembers who were engaged directly with the enemy. It is the nature of this wonderful Brotherhood of ours to honor veterans who have been overlooked in a vast, ignorant, miscarriage of popular sentiment. This dedication is also and possibly foremost, for the lost Brothers who may have died while delivering the mail, and for the cooks, and mechanics, weapons loaders, weather forecasters, photo interpreters, and so on, who went where their country sent them to do their duty as it was handed down throughout our history…and who live on this earth no more. You may have known someone like that, and maybe it helps you to imagine their happy times, with a silly grin like Lee Harley’s, while they sat on a plywood footlocker to joke and maybe to talk about going home.
And now they are home because we are here and they are our Brothers. Where we are, they are too. It is for them, in the name of the TLC Brotherhood, that I convey this plaque. We dedicate this memorial to them!
|Reflections of the Reunion 2000 - planners point of view.
The events leading up to the reunion were a first time for me in planning a reunion. I appreciate guys like Jimmie Butler, who had the experience, and Fred Thompson who was willing to take on the challenge of getting us an honor guard, even volunteering to be one as a last resort.
When D-Day came we did some last minute coordinating at Jimmie's house, and then it was show time at the Radisson Inn. I remember getting set up in our hospitality room, flags on the wall (thanks to Bob Norway, whom I had just met), computer connected for checking and sending email or printing additional name tags. Things were finally ready, and guys started arriving. I remember sending them to the registration table to pickup their book bags and registration material. They would come back over, introduce themselves, shake hands and we would meet for the first time. WOW! I started seeing names with faces and families. I tried posting a day's event update online for you who weren't at the reunion.
We got off to a rather slow start, but that was good, cause everyone got a chance to mingle with one another. Then it was "WHAT TIME DID YOU SAY", when Jimmie told them about the early morning 0730 departure for the Garden of the Gods tour. Finally the room was empty, and I went to the front desk to secure the room for the night. End of day one.
Day two started early, with everyone getting breakfast, and Jimmie gathering those who were going to make the trek with the llama lady. Then they were gone, and we had time to drink coffee and talk, before the next tour to Peterson AFB at noon. The board meeting seemed to drag on forever, and finally they took a lunch break before heading back in. We gathered and got a head count, and I told the group (we're car pooling) to line up outside for the trip to Peterson. I got with John Sweet, and headed outside to find only 2 cars. So I got in one and we headed out. Met the group at the NCO club, and wouldn't you guess it, they had cancelled our lunch. Called the O club, and they accommodated us with no problem. Once at the museum we got SSgt Burton to open up the C-121. While everyone was getting a tour from John Loftus, Ron Utech (whom I had just met) and I got a chance meeting of another brother of SEA, a retired USAF pilot named Bob Swanson. Claimed to fly B-24's in WWII, and choppers (Jolly Green's) out of Udorn. Told him about Robin Olds, and he met Olds in Ubon in 68. Gave us a hand painted portrait which he painted, to add to our museum (gave it to Dan Decker). He gave a couple of poems he'd written which Dan has as well.
Before heading back to the Radisson, I took Ron to the memorial of "Summit 38" on Peterson. It's dedicated to the crew of the C-130 that crashed in Idaho in 1995. The pilot (LTC Robert Buckhout) and possibly the crew chief were brothers of SEA, having flown in Thailand out of Udorn. Then we joined everyone at the hotel. The evening at the hospitality room went a little better, cause we had John Sweet auctioning off everything but the kitchen sink. Coins, lighters, video tape, books, everything went to raise money for the kids. Great time was had by all. Then the room was empty and secured for the night.
Day three started off early with breakfast and a 0800 departure time. This time we went in style with Roger of Gray Line Tours. He took us to different parts of the USAFA, even commented on lots of interesting things about the academy. It wouldn't have been the same without him. We made a stop at the gift shop, and got to shop for a spell. Then it was off to the chapel for the memorial ceremony. When we got inside, everyone was extremely quiet. Reverence for God and for His house. Looking around, everyone was lost in his or her own thought, anticipating what was about to happen. Kendra was great, singing "God Bless America" a rendition of her own, preceded by a thank you letter to our military, which she had written a year before on her way to visit an orphanage in the Philippines. Not a dry eye in the place. The guys who got up and spoke, and the chaplain who gave us new food for thought, all complimented what we hoped to accomplish. With the superintendent present, it really validated why we were here.
Then the move to the cemetery and the flags on all the graves identified as SEA brothers. The memorializing of names (the 3 roll calls) and the adding of names by individuals gave real meaning to this historic event. Presenting the plaque to the USAF academy was special. The honor guard, and the bugler were a tribute to the solumness of this event. Even the stop at the B-52 was eventful. Many Army officers and NCO's came in by bus, met and talked to several of our guys about who we are and why we were there. News camera man got some footage of it as well. Then back to the Radisson and lunch before the general membership meeting. This was when we were given reports by the various departments and discussed some critical parts and functions of the TLCB. Great to hear what we're doing for the kids, and planning for the future. This was when Gen Robin Olds arrived and was boarded across the hall from the hospitality room.
The highlight of the evening was the banquet. Opened at 6pm, and everyone seated by 6:30. There was time for socializing and getting to know your neighbor while waiting for the food. We had 61 signed up for the reunion, and 88 fed at the banquet (they charged us for 61). It was eventful from the start, and Robin Olds speech was excellent. He made you think about things that had long since departed from many of our memories. Great man, and a real hero (even if he didn't think so). The quilt was wonderful and Mike was the lucky recipient. The evening wound down around 10:30, and most of us retired for the evening. Not Olds, the chaplain, Jimmie and a whole bunch of brothers. I think they stayed up till 3am or so.
Then Sunday was the final day. Jimmie presented his talk on Steel Tiger and A Certain Brotherhood, then introduced Jim Fore, who spoke on his life as an Army Aircorp pilot, POW, and a CAT pilot in SEA out of Laos. At the same time I took a group to the summit of Pikes Peak, and we experienced the low oxygen of 14, 410 feet above sea level. Nice trip, and we all got to know one another a little better. Then it was off to Jimmie's if you weren't headed for the airport. There was more reminiscing and carrying on for the stragglers. The final group left on Monday morning, and I had the honor of taking several of them to the airport. Got to know them a little better as well.
I'd say that overall it was an excellent reunion, and I even met a brother (joined the group over the weekend) who lives across my back fence. Jim Harrad and I have been neighbors for 15 years, but it took this reunion for us to get to know one another. For me that was excellent. Glad to have met you guys, Ron Bogata, Jerry Gaida, David Weakley, Mike Brennen, all the guys I was able to spend a little more time with.
569th TC Khon Kaen 68 -70
Charter Member of TLC Brotherhood
The reunion at Colorado Springs was my second since joining the TLC. Last year in Wash DC I really enjoyed it, even though I didn't really know anyone. I did get to know some of the guys, and could feel the spirit that we all shared which was we served our country. This year that feeling was much more prevalent because I had gotten to know some guys even better, and this year I got to meet more guys who were at U-Tapao. I believe the feeling of serving together is easily shared when you talk to someone else who has done it, versus trying to explain to someone who never served. That feeling is there at the reunion, a real bonding that I can feel easier than I can explain it.
The service at the Academy Chapel and the dedication of the TLC Memorial at the cemetery was very moving. The response of the Academy folks to our group was unbelievable, it really brought tears to my eyes. My wife enjoyed this
reunion immensely since she has been a member of the sisterhood the last year and got to meet people who she has communicated with the last year. But I was really surprised at the reaction from my 16 year old son who came with us.
You all know how hard it is to please someone that age. He described the reunion as "AWESOME" and wants to go to the one in Florida next year. I am proud to be a charter member of the TLC!
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